It still hurts if I think about it.
We got to the finals of the pre-season Christmas Tournament in 1963. The coach stole everything he could from UCLA. We pressed constantly and for an entire quarter one poor team we played in the tournament never made it past half court. Their guards looked like they were ready to cry with frustration.
But the team from La Jolla had scouted us out, I think. They brought their big center to half court and broke our press easily. Also I didn’t know it till I walked on it but the college court where we played the finals was bigger than a high school court. We had more territory to cover and we couldn’t cover it.
They played a zone on us, and the piss of it was they dropped way off me on the outside and clamped down on our best player, a shooting guard. Over and over the guard threw it to me. I didn’t know what to do with it but shoot. I could have been more than 18 feed out, a lay-up for me on a normal day, and I threw up one brick after another.
If I had made even a couple of those, we might have pulled them out of the zone a bit.
After that—and it was my senior year—my playing time declined. I had started as a junior and up till that point as senior. But the coach started playing a junior instead; he couldn’t shoot for shit as far as I could tell, but he was six feet three and near 190 compared to my running weight of 148 at six feet.
They didn’t call me “Nick the Stick” for nothing; or “Mahatma,” in acknowledgement of my more spiritual side, or maybe because I looked like I had been on a fast.